T-Fal being in short supply, the hardy souls who settled the West made use of whatever tools they had on hand to create unconventional cookware and techniques that are still relevant today. Here are three ways to throw a picnic, pioneer style.
**1) Pitchfork Fryer **
For hot-pot cooking on a grand scale, hang upsized slabs of steak off a (hopefully clean) pitchfork and deep-fry them in a vat of boiling oil. A wood fire and cauldron are traditional, but a propane burner and a big pot used for frying turkeys works well. Heat lard or oil to 375 degrees, then dip in seasoned steaks. Don’t dally, though. In as little as 31⁄2 minutes, you’ll have a crispy steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare on the inside.
2) Cream-Can Supper
This steam-driven method of layering vegetables in a clean cream can is reminiscent of a New England clambake. Stand ears of corn upright and top with chopped cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Add sliced sausage, in a nod to the Eastern European immigrants that settled the Great Plains. Pour a few beers in, close the lid, and set the can over a hot fire or propane burner to steam for 30 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked through.
3) Tractor-Disc Grill
The cowboy wok was traditionally repurposed from a disc off a harrow tool, which is used to till soil, but today you can buy one that’s perfect for making Mexican discada (southwestdisk.com). Fry diced bacon, and as it crisps, move it up the sides of the disc, letting grease drain into the center, where you should brown Mexican chorizo, strips of marinated pork or flank steak, and sliced vegetables. Splash in some stock and seasonings, let things simmer, then scoop into corn tortillas and enjoy.